Did DNC and Team Hillary attorney Marc Elias lead John Podesta and Debbie Wasserman Schultz into a perjury trap? According to CNN, the two testified to congressional investigators that they did not have any knowledge of the funding for the Fusion GPS dossier that prompted an FBI probe into Donald Trump campaign figures.
In recent closed-door interviews with the Senate intelligence committee, Podesta and Wasserman Schultz said they did not know who had funded Fusion GPS, the intelligence firm that hired British Intelligence Officer Christopher Steele to compile the dossier on Trump, the sources said.
Podesta was asked in his September interview whether the Clinton campaign had a contractual agreement with Fusion GPS, and he said he was not aware of one, according to one of the sources.
Sitting next to Podesta during the interview: his attorney Marc Elias, who worked for the law firm that hired Fusion GPS to continue research on Trump on behalf of the Clinton campaign and DNC, multiple sources said. Elias was only there in his capacity as Podesta’s attorney and not as a witness.
Whether or not this testimony was under oath, it is a crime to provide false testimony to Congress. Elias certainly knew about the funding and its connection to the DNC and Team Hillary, and yet remained silent. He may not have been a witness, but as the attorney representing Podesta — who served as Hillary’s campaign manager — wouldn’t he have at least leaned over and advised his client not to answer that question? And given that sources close to Hillary Clinton claim she found out about it in January, long before this probe began, wouldn’t Podesta have known about it by the time he answered this question?
Podesta may need to find another lawyer — stat. And Wasserman Schultz might want to add some legal resources, too.
Wolf Blitzer calls the situation “awkward.” Former CIA Director and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta calls it “very awkward.” Neither of them have an answer as to how the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign can claim ignorance, or could have during testimony to congressional investigators. As awkward as it might be, though, Panetta emphatically states that the intelligence committees in Congress have to get to the bottom of it (via Cortney O’Brien):
BLITZER: So it’s very awkward. How could both the chair of the DNC and the Clinton campaign not know about these payments?
PANETTA: Well, it’s obviously something that the intelligence committee is going to have to, have to look at. You know, knowing presidential campaigns, they’re big operations and somehow the left hand may not know what the right hand is doing. And that could be the case here, but I really do think that the committee is going to have to get into this, determine just exactly what happened. Who knew what and when.
BLITZER: But the lawyer who was representing the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign, Marc Elias, is sitting next to John Podesta. He was asked, “Do you know about the funding?” He says no. Wouldn’t it be his responsibility to at least whisper in his ear,” yes,” and at least tell him what’s going on? So if he wasn’t lying, John Podesta, he would be able to clarify all of that before the committee on a sensitive issue like this?
PANETTA: Well, it certainly makes the situation very awkward. If you’re testifying and saying you have no knowledge and the attorney sitting next to you is one of those that knew what, what was involved here, I think it does raise an issue that the committee is going to have to look at and determine just exactly who knew what.
It might be time for the Department of Justice to start looking at perjury and obstruction charges, too.